MIDNIGHT AT THE PERA PALACE: The Birth of Modern Istanbul


MIDNIGHT AT THE PERA PALACE: The Birth of Modern Istanbul

CHARLES KING    Book Number: 85036    Product format: Paperback

The Pera Palace, the most luxurious hotel in Istanbul (or Constantinople as it was originally called) was established in 1892 for clients of the Orient Express who would arrive in the capital of the Ottoman Empire. It was a luxurious place that attracted visitors to the city. It even had a wood and iron elevator, only the second to be installed in Europe (the first was at the Eiffel Tower). 'For more than half a millennium, the West's image of the Islamic world has been shaped by its encounter with Istanbul; the grandeur of its golden age, the swiftness of its decline, the apparent choice between the bad alternatives of authoritarian rule and religious extremism. But in the interwar years Istanbullus embraced Western ideals with a zeal that no one could have imagined.' It was populated by Greeks, Armenians, Jews and Muslims, white Russian nobles, Bolshevik assassins, German professors, British diplomats, American entrepreneurs, poets and ne'er do wells. Bars, jazz clubs and brothels enjoyed the Jazz Age buzz. In 1941 a suitcase bomb exploded at the hotel, inadvertently as it turned out. Two suitcases filled with TNT had been placed by Bulgarian agents, working in league with the Germans, with a pile of luggage belonging to British diplomats due to stay at the Pera. However, the cases did not explode on the train and on arrival in Istanbul they were loaded onto a taxi with the passengers and other luggage and taken to the hotel. 'A flash of light, then a deafening boom suddenly shook the hotel. The elevator creaked on its cables and plummeted to the bottom of its shaft. The glass canopy collapsed, showering shards on the reception hall. Inlaid cabinets and mahogany chairs slid in pieces across the parquet. Blood spattered the marble stairs and plaster walls, and small fires erupted from the wood panelling.' Many people were killed or badly injured. The second suitcase had been taken to another hotel, but luckily one of the diplomats realised what had happened, raced to it, grabbed the case and hurled it onto open ground. A lively account of an Islamic city filled with spies, brothels and diplomats, which played host to numerous famous names from Trotsky to Goebbels and Hemmingway to Agatha Christie. Softback. 476pp. B/w illus.
Published price: £12.99
Bibliophile price: £5.00


Additional product information

ISBN 9780393351866
Browse these categories as well: History, Crime, Travel & Places

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